A high-stakes political struggle over requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls is erupting in Minnesota, conjuring up emotional precedents from the notorious Jim Crow poll taxes to the old Chicago admonition to “vote early and often.” The determined Republican drive to pass a photo ID constitutional amendment as a needed deterrent to fraud — and the equally strong DFL effort to oppose it as a partisan ploy to suppress votes — has turned the ordinary driver’s license into a symbol of our national divide. “It’s like we’re back in slavery, only it’s all of us this time,” said Antoinette Oloko, an African-American woman at one of several protests against photo ID and news conferences at the Capitol in recent days. “We’ve had cases of ineligible voters, convicted felons, voting when they shouldn’t be,” said Dan McGrath of the pro-ID group Minnesota Majority, who has collected pictures of voters’ given “addresses” that turn out to be empty lots.
Minnesota’s battle is emerging in a critical election year and follows two consecutive recount-close elections — a clear sign of the impact that changes to state election law could have. The push for photo ID that began in Georgia and Indiana has now resulted in bills or initiatives passed in six other states, including Wisconsin, which holds its first photo ID election Feb. 21.
“Republicans are worried about the integrity of the process and the threat of fraud,” said Doug Chapin, director of the elections administration program at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “Democrats worry about expanding the franchise and people having the right to vote. Voter ID … is the place where those two conflicting views run headlong into one another.” To many people, showing an ID at the polls seems a minimal standard. “By golly, they check your ID to buy liquor,” Marshall Schwartz said at last week’s Republican precinct caucuses in Edina. “We can’t do anything else without our ID,” Linda Presthus added.
Full Article: Two fears drive fight on photo ID | StarTribune.com.